May 24, 2017 Newsletter

Rich Vial

May 24, 2017 Newsletter

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Here is an update on my work as your State Representative.

2017-19 Budget

On May 16th, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released its May 2017 Economic & Revenue Outlook.  Due to economic growth and low unemployment, the report also showed that the State has more money now than it ever has before.  In order for the State to adopt the Budget Framework released earlier this year by the Co-Chairs of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, however, the report showed that we would need to raise an additional $1.4 billion in new revenue.  While some believe that we need to raise taxes on our businesses like what was proposed by Measure 97 during the recent general election, the Legislative Revenue Office has said that such a tax would hurt lower-income Oregonians the most.  I certainly do not believe that we should balance Oregon’s budget on the backs of its most vulnerable citizens.  Rather, I believe that our state government needs to do a better job of spending the money that it has responsibly.

Transportation Package

The Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization has continued to unveil and debate portions of the transportation package framework it released earlier this month.  You can read more about the concepts that are being discussed here.  In its current form, the proposal would pay to widen several traffic congestion bottlenecks in the Portland Metropolitan Area by creating a tax on new vehicles as well as by potentially implementing tolling and congestion-pricing mechanisms.  It would also fund a number of preservation, maintenance, and seismic upgrade projects through increases in the gas tax as well as title, registration, and licensing fees.  Lastly, the proposal would support more bike lanes and public transit through both a tax on new bicycles and a payroll tax, respectively.  While the specific size of these tax and fee increases are still being discussed, the proposal would raise approximately $5 billion dollars over the next ten years.  I have received feedback from a number of my constituents on this issue, and while passing a Transportation Package this session will require making hard choices financially, I believe they will be necessary to sustain and build our economy in the long run, as well as to accommodate our region’s rapidly growing population.

In the Capitol

Informational Hearing

Last month, the Chair of the House Committee on Transportation Policy appointed Representative Susan McLain and me to Co-Chair a legislative workgroup on Autonomous Vehicles.  While other states, such as Texas, Tennessee, and Colorado, have already begun passing laws to regulate the deployment of autonomous vehicles on their roadways, Oregon has yet to make any substantial progress on that front.  The purpose of this workgroup is to analyze and evaluate other states’ laws governing the use of autonomous vehicles, and to bring stakeholders from a variety of different fields including tech, design, manufacturing, labor, and government to the table to share their thoughts and concerns as this technology becomes more prevalent in our lives and as the Oregon State Legislature considers passing regulatory laws that are right for our communities and our state.  On May 10th, the House Committee on Transportation Policy held an informational hearing on the issue of autonomous vehicles.  In addition, Representative McLain and I have organized several stakeholder meetings since then.

During the past few weeks, I have also become a member of the legislative workgroup on Drones.  As with autonomous vehicles, drone technology is beginning to play a much larger role in our lives.  The purpose of this workgroup is also to facilitate discussion with stakeholders that will help the legislature to pass effective laws that will keep Oregonians safe and protect their privacy.

On May 12th, I attended my first meeting of the Oregon Innovation Council since I was appointed by the Speaker of the House in March.  Oregon InC is a public-private partnership that was created in 2005 to encourage the development of industry clusters in areas where new technologies hold unique, national advantages.  One example of an industry cluster that has already taken shape in Oregon is drone technology, which we spent a significant portion of our three-hour meeting discussing.  Both my Autonomous Vehicle and Drone legislative workgroups have connections to and overlap with what Oregon InC is trying to accomplish, and I am committed to ensuring that our State’s laws are capable of handling both imminent and unforeseen challenges as Oregon becomes home to the industries of tomorrow.


May 16th was Technical and Regional University (TRU) Day at the Capitol.  Dozens of students from Western Oregon University, Southern Oregon University, Eastern Oregon University, and the Oregon Institute of Technology came to Salem to lobby their legislators.  Throughout the day, I met with Oregon Tech's President, Dr. Nagi Naganathan, and about 30 Oregon Tech students, to discuss the school’s legislative priorities this session.  Oregon Tech’s campuses in Wilsonville and Klamath Falls are doing great things both for their students and the State.  In fact, a recent study conducted by Smart Asset lists Oregon Tech as having the highest post-graduate salaries of any college or university in Oregon.  You can read more about that study here.  I appreciate all those who attended for being engaged in the legislative process and for sharing their knowledge and passion.  Go Owls!

In the District

Hillsboro Awards Gala

May 18th was the Hillsboro Awards Gala.  This annual event provides the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce with an opportunity to recognize individuals, businesses, and organizations who have contributed to the economy or given back to their communities in the greater Hillsboro area, like former Mayor Jerry Willey and current Mayor Steve Callaway.  Local high school students performed for attendees and the Hillsboro Chamber presented awards to influential members of the community.  I would like to extend a special thanks to the Hillsboro Chamber for organizing such a great event, embodying the spirit of Hillsboro—Where the Stars Shine.

Personal Reflections

HB 2005 Floor Speech

On March 28th, during the daily Floor Session of the House of Representatives, I was the only Republican to vote “Aye” on HB 2005 A-Engrossed, now known as the Oregon Equal Pay Act.  At that time, the bill was not perfect and I argued in favor of substituting its language with what was contained in the Minority Report.  You can watch a video of my floor speech here.  Although that effort failed, I felt that it was more important for the Legislature to take a public stance against pay discrimination with respect to gender, race, and other classifications, than it was for me to vote “No” because the bill was not exactly what I wanted it to be.  You can watch a video of my vote explanation here.  Needless to say, that was a very lonely and difficult day for me.

On May 22nd, the bill came back to the Floor of the House—in the form of HB 2005 B-Engrossed—so we could approve several changes that the Senate made to the language of the bill.  Many of these changes were ones I had initially advocated for on March 28th, and I was gratified to see them receive unanimous approval in the House as each of my Republican colleagues came to agree on the importance of this concept.

In many respects, this is the best job I have ever had.  Not a day goes by that I am not learning something and, as a naturally curious person, I find that is the true definition of fun.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve, and I am appreciative that my family and my life circumstances have allowed me to do so.  As always, I welcome your input, value your perspective, and urge you to share your views by contacting my office.  It is a privilege to serve as your State Representative.




Capitol Phone: 503-986-1426
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-484, Salem, Oregon 97301